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TV features Tahoe’s Vano

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

With her blonde ponytail flying in the wind and lipstick glowing in the sun, Donna Vano ended a quick run for the cameras Thursday at the Sierra-at-Tahoe halfpipe.

“That was fun,” she said.

The declaration comes from a 48-year-old South Lake Tahoe woman who embodies big air and big fun as a big-time mom and kid in one.

The Women’s Entertainment channel, WE, videotaped her young-at-heart attitude and strength in mind, body and spirit for a show on female athletes. Vano is a competitive snowboarder and in-line skater.

The show, “Winning Women,” features 52 athletes from around the world. It’s due to air in early summer.

For the taping, 11 of Vano’s young protZgZs, involved in her U.S. Snowboard Series, attended to support her brush with fame. Many yelled, “Yeah Donna,” after her halfpipe runs.

Stacie Anderson said Vano acts like a big sister.

The 12-year-old snowboarder and her two sisters train with Vano, who said developing Olympians is the mission of the group.

“Now that we have four Olympic medals in snowboarding, I think we’ll have more kids in the series,” Vano said.

Vano sees her growing group of youthful boarders as her own children and they seem to have a good time.

“Aren’t they amazing?” Vano asked.

She always wanted to go to the Olympics, but ovarian cancer got in the way. It also provided a hindrance to bearing children.

But Vano’s signature smile exemplifies a woman filled to the rim with joy.

“These are my kids,” she said, as her husband Al wrestled with the children in the snow. “But we’re the two biggest.”

The two met rollerblading. He flashed by her barking out skating suggestions in his New Zealand accent, she recalled.

“I said, ‘that guy’s rad,'” she said.

The two dated for two years before tying the knot.

The Vanos have invested four years in their snowboard series, one of 35 across the United States that have produced many junior national champions.

What does it take to be a winner?

“People who have a passion in the sport and humility too. There’s a lot of arrogance in this sport,” she said.

A fierce competitor herself, Vano is convinced the teens in her snowboard series have the potential to take home medals.

“What happens is there are times I don’t get to snowboard very much because we’re working to make these kids pros. When it’s time to compete, I have to visualize my runs,” she said.

There’s no room to be psyched out. Vano believes competing in snowboarding events is both a mental and physical game — especially when those events are judged in panels.

“I find that with sports you get what you get. You just have to buck up and take it,” she said. “I just think butterflies have to be become stealth bombers.”

Vano said she was “really excited” about having a slice of her life chronicled for other women to use as inspiration to blow the social norms.

“She inspires the rest of the fems to get out there and kick butt,” said Karen Somers, a producer for Los Angeles-based MNM Productions. The company is producing the show for WE. “Women are catching up quite rapidly to the guys in sports,” Somers said.

Somers’ video features females ranging from a 12-year-old cliff climber to a 70-year-old surfer.

Vano started in-line skating at age 37. Three years later, she took up snowboarding. Eight broken arms in six years haven’t kept her down.

“You can always snowboard with a broken arm,” she said.


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